As PM Narendra Modi met world leaders invited for the G7 Summit in Germany over the weekend, he presented them with a range of art and craft pieces sourced from various parts of the country, with many of them coming from Uttar Pradesh. We look at who was presented what and the specific craft traditions behind those pieces.
Black Pottery pieces for Japanese PM
The Black Pottery of Nizamabad in Uttar Pradesh uses a special technique to bring out black colours. This involves ensuring that there is no scope for oxygen to enter the oven as pottery pieces are kept inside and the heat level remains high. The presence of oxygen can turn the pottery red. The glaze on the pottery comes from the high zinc content of the soil and the layer of mustard oil applied before firing the pottery. It comes with and without inlay. The Japanese PM was presented with a set of three such pieces.
Dokra art to presidents of Argentina and South Africa
Dokra art is non-ferrous metal casting art that uses the lost-wax casting technique. This technique has been in use for over 4,000 years in India, and is still practised by artisans in central and eastern India. It is in great demand in domestic and foreign markets because of its primitive simplicity, folk motifs and forceful form.
An art-piece from Chattisgarh, a figure of ‘Nandi – The Meditative Bull’, was presented to the Argentinean president. According to Hindu mythology, Nandi is considered as the vehicle (mount) of Lord Shiva. For South Africa’s President, the art-piece was based on the Ramayana theme.
Gulabi Meenakari brooch, cufflink set to US president
Gulabi Meenakari is a GI-tagged art-form of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. A piece of pure silver is moulded into a base form, and a chosen design is embossed in the metal. The embossed shapes are then filled with great dexterity with crushed meena glass mixed with natural anardana (pomegranate seeds) glue. This is then fired to transform into a translucent coloured patch. What distinguishes it from other meenakari is the layer of white meena which acts as an opaque canvas for hand-painted motifs. The paint is fired layer by layer for permanence. The motifs primarily use the colour pink (Gulabi), which lends its name to the craft. These cufflinks were prepared for the US president with a matching brooch for the First Lady.
Hand painted tea set to UK PM
A tea set from Bulandshahr district was presented to the British PM, with its base form hand painted and fired at 1,200 degrees Celsius. In this craft form, the embossed outlines are laid on manually with a mehendi cone and require an extremely confident hand. Each shape is then separately filled with colour and the entire cup is fired again. The crockery was outlined with platinum metal paint in honour of the Queen’s platinum jubilee being celebrated this year.
Itr bottles in Zardozi box to French president
Crafted in Lucknow, the Zari Zardozi box was hand embroidered on khadi silk and satin tissue in colours of the French National Flag. The motifs were traditional Indo-Persian, lotus flowers hand-embroidered with metal wire in blue, and a pendant used in Kashmiri carpets and motifs from Awadhi architecture. This box contained a selection of fragrances from Kannauj, produced using the 5,000-year-old traditional deg and bhapka method.
The scents included Attar Mitti — a unique attar where petrichor, the fresh odour of first rain coming on earth is captured over sandalwood oil; Attar Shamama, capturing the essence of herbs and spices of age-old Vedic formulation; Attar Gulab — having odour most close to natural rose petal; Exotic Musk, a modern fragrance crafted with jasmine, rose and musk; and Garam Masala, to celebrate the French appreciation for good cuisine.
Marble inlay table top for Italy’s PM
Pietra Dura or marble inlay has its origins in opus sectile — a form of Pietra Dura popularised in the ancient and medieval Roman world where materials were cut and inlaid into walls and floors to make a picture or pattern.
This particular table top from Agra was made of semi-precious stones with gradients in their colour, making it very similar to Italian marble inlay work.
To make this art work, a predefined pattern is engraved on the marble item. Small pieces of semi-precious stones are then cut delicately and then slipped into grooves.
Metal Marodi carving matka for German Chancellor
This nickel coated, hand-engraved brass vessel is a masterpiece from Moradabad, the “brass city” of Uttar Pradesh. After casting the pot, the design that has to be engraved is first sketched on paper. An outline of the whole design is done with a fine engraving tool hammered with a wooden block. This particular type of engraving is called Marodi, owing to the curved lines used to fill up the negative space in this design. The importance of the engraving craft of Moradabad is in its ability to elevate items of everyday use into objects of intrigue.
Moonj baskets, cotton durries for Senegal’s president
In Senegal, the tradition of hand weaving is passed down from mother to daughter, adding to its importance as a vehicle for cultural expression and family livelihood – driven by strong women. The same is done in Prayagraj, Sultanpur and Amethi districts of the state of Uttar Pradesh, where Moonj or Saccharum Bengalense plant is now acting as a sustainable source of income for rural women. Like Senegalese baskets, Moonj craft also utilises bright, jewel tone colours. This particular piece is by a master craftswoman from Prayagraj. The cotton durries are handwoven in Sitapur.
Lacquerware Ram Durbar to Indonesian president
The GI-tagged lacquerware art-form has its roots in the temple town of Varanasi. The process is a tedious one, requiring assembly of a base wooden form with separate limbs, which is covered layered by layer with distemper or lac-based paint. True to their city of origin, lacquerware items always come in bright, jewel tones. This particular piece is made of Goolar wood. The principal characters in the artwork are Lord Ram, Sita, Hanuman and Jatayu. It is believed that the Indonesian version of Ramayana was written during the Medang Kingdom (8th to 11th century) in Central Java. The story of Ramayana was narrated to the people through shadow puppetry (wayang kulit and wayang purwa).
Hand-knotted Kashmiri silk carpet to Canada’s PM
The hand-knotted silk carpets are famous all over the world for their softness and craftsmanship. Each Kashmiri silk carpet is considered to be a never-before-seen piece of hand-made art. The Kashmiri silk carpets, made predominantly in Srinagar, are hand-knotted on the warp threads, one at a time, in accordance to a strict code of colours in the order of their appearance in the pattern. The knotted product is clipped with shears to smoothness, and then treated with several brightening processes.
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